With deep reservations, the City Council approved a clerical position Tuesday that had not been advertised, competitively bid or even discussed prior to its creation.
“We’re circumventing civil service, we’re circumventing affirmative action, we’re circumventing our residency law,” said Councilman Vince Riggi, who voted against the hiring. He is the only non-Democrat on the council.
Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard also voted no, saying she won’t approve of hiring employees who do not live in the city. City law requires all employees, except for public safety workers, to be residents.
But five council members voted to hire an as-yet-unnamed woman to run the counter at the building department. She is a trained code enforcer and Building Inspector Eric Shilling said she was eminently qualified to answer questions and hand out permits. She will work as a contractor, without benefits, at $20 an hour. Next year, she will work for $25 an hour.
Several of the council members who voted for it expressed concerns about the way in which the position was filled. Shilling met the woman at a code enforcement training, which she was teaching. He then pitched the job to her without first proposing the position to the City Council. After he negotiated a contract, he brought it to the council for approval last week. No one else was interviewed for the post, nor could anyone else apply, since the job was never advertised.
Councilman Carl Erikson said that was a mistake.
“We need to have an open interview process,” he said. “That being said, I’m in favor of bringing in contractors.”
But, he said, the position ought to require more than the current job description.
“For $20 to $25 an hour, I would expect this person would do more than just clerical work,” he said.
Nonetheless, he voted in favor.
So did Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who also criticized the process. “I feel other people should have had the opportunity [to apply],” she said. “Now this may be the best candidate, but other people should have been considered.”
Among them might have been resident Jon Fink, who told the council during privilege of the floor that he would have offered to do the job for $14 an hour. Fink, a trained nurse, said he believed he could quickly learn the required permit rules.
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